A public information meeting on proposed changes to the Winona County zoning ordinance included more questions than answers on Thursday night. A crowd of attendees asked questions and stated their concerns, while others expressed support for the plan.
The zoning amendments, proposed by County Board and Planning Commission member Steve Jacob, would allow existing homes that met land use regulations when they were built to be expanded within a 300-foot radius around the home. The amendments would also allow feedlots a similar expansion radius, as well as allow owners of parcels that are under 40 acres, which were recorded before the new ordinance took affect, to build a home without a conditional use permit.
In addition, the zone changes would allow a home considered "nonconforming" to be rebuilt if it were damaged more than 50 percent by a fire or other act of God; this is currently prohibited in the ordinance.
Many who questioned the amendments during the meeting Thursday said they feared the amendments would weaken bluff protection measures, since the amendments would allow homes on the bluff tops to be expanded within the 300-foot radius. Others said the changes would restore property rights taken away by the new ordinance and add common sense to the land use rules.
Robert Wick, of Hart Township, told the board that his home was built near two old feedlots. After one was expanded, he said his family must now deal with extreme odors, even though it is more than the required 1,000 feet from his home. He said he feared the amendments would allow feedlots to expand without input from neighbors, and would allow farms to expand much closer to neighboring homes than is currently allowed.
Planning Department staff members promised to provide responses to citizens' questions as soon as possible, then post them on the county website prior to the first public hearing on the ordinance changes, scheduled for August 15. Many voiced concern for what they considered a rush to pass the ordinance amendment, citing a lack of information about the ramifications of the proposal.
Keep reading the Winona Post for more on the ordinance amendments and how they might impact the landscape of Winona County.